Will Politics Trump Science On Redbelly Snake Status In Kansas?

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Will Politics Trump Science On Redbelly Snake Status In Kansas?

The redbelly snake is a nonvenomous Colubrid snake that can be found throughout North America.

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The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission has been asked by the state’s wildlife and parks secretary, Robin Jennison, to vote against the recommendations of scientists that the state’s redbelly snake (Storeria occipitomaculata occipitomaculata) should keep its threatened listing under the state’s endangered species act. 

redbelly snake


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The redbelly snake is a nonvenomous Colubrid snake that can be found throughout North America.


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The Kansas Threatened and Endangered Species task committee earlier this year suggested that the snake should stay on the list at the same time that the legislature weighed a bill that would have removed the snakes from the list because the listing got in the way of certain development projects. 

Jennison’s reasoning? That not removing the snake from the state’s endangered species list would cause the legislature to run the state’s natural resource management. According to the Wichita Star, Jennison in June at a Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting said that the red belly snake is “clearly jeopardized in Kansas,” yet noted that if the wildlife department doesn’t pay attention to the state’s politics, the legislature would legislate its removal from the list.

Unprecedented? Absolutely says a member of the Kansas Sierra Club. “The precedence this could set could gut the protection of nongame species in Kansas,” Elaine Giessel, Kansas Sierra Club endangered species chairwoman told the Star. “At any time, anybody could just up and ask that a species be taken off the list. For the 40 years we’ve had the act in Kansas, there has never been a single case when the recommendations of the task committee were changed or overridden until now.”

It will be interesting to see how the wildlife and parks commission votes on the status of the snake, which some consider more reclusive than rare. 

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The redbelly snake is a nonvenomous Colubrid snake that can be found throughout North America. It eats mostly slugs and earthworms and can grow to about 12 inches in total length.


John B. Virata keeps a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata